[Alumni Edition] Brooke Ray Interview ’13

Brooke Ray (’13) spoke to The Acronym about her experience with Drama Club at IMSA. Here’s what she had to say:

Tell us about your club. What did your club do on campus? How did people get involved with your club? What did a typical meeting look like? What role did you play in the club?

Yeah, I think the policy in the drama club at the time was that anyone could audition for our shows, so anyone could do it basically. But that meant we had kind of a rotating group all the time, which was really cool, especially for some of the larger plays we did. Like in my junior year, we did Romeo and Juliet and that brought in a ton of new faces to the group, and really sparked some life back into what was a smaller group before. So, overall, it was really open and anyone could access it. 

You were also able to be a part of things like the PRC (play reading committee), and that was one of the only positions that we had outside of the board, and it was run by whoever the president was at the time. In my junior year, I was in the play reading committee as a reading member, and I would read through the scripts that we had which were free because we didn’t have much money. And so that group (PRC) was kind of just like whoever wanted to do it. Sometimes, we were like, “Please, can you help us? We need more people to read. We need more people to see this terrible play that no one’s going to want to do.” 

Then there was the board as well, which was mainly just the president and technical president. There may have been more, but my memories are failing me right now. But yeah, they were all elected towards the end of the year. We would also have a big award ceremony after the last play was done, usually in the last week or two of school. In it, a survey would be sent out, from Surveymonkey at the time, and we would vote on the place and who we wanted to be the president, tech president and other positions there were. We also passed out awards for silly superlative kinds of things, like I think in my senior year, I won the most typecast award, cause I was the mom in almost every single play.  

But yeah, that was pretty much how you participated, you could basically do whatever you wanted at the time. So if you just wanted to hang in the back and do someone’s makeup, plan out design, or be the lead in every play, all of it was totally possible. It was a really cool way to get involved with school.

What is your favorite memory from being in the club?

Oh, so, so many. But I think one of the biggest traditions that we had was going to Steak and Shake after our last show, and without fail, belting bohemian rhapsody on the whole eight-minute drive there. We were all dressed up in our costumes too. I’ve got pictures of me with like gray hair and aging makeup in Steak and Shake. I’m sure they hated us, but that was one of my best memories, and honestly, I think it was very indicative of the time. I don’t know if drama kids still do that, but my other high school did it as well. Going to Steak and Shake was like a thing you would do after either the first show or last show.

Were you involved in any other activities or clubs on campus?

Oh boy, was I ever. I think I was a big member of Kids Institute (KI), which I’m not sure still exists. It was run by Julie Dowling and we did a lot of summer camps through the school, and there was also a separate segment of it that I was really involved in called IMSA on Wheels, which I also don’t think exists anymore. In that, we would go out to different areas of Chicago land and do things like elementary school science presentations. So that was really fun and it also played into the whole drama club thing. I played tennis for a couple of years too. I’m blanking now, but there were like 2 or 3 other clubs I was in. I was really just doing my best to put my hand in every pocket. 

What did a typical day look like? What kind of classes did you take? Did you have a favorite teacher, favorite study spot, etc.?

Oh man, I think it was the same kind of ABCD structure. All the like rotating classes so you could focus on math and science. I did Excel before I started, because I came from a rougher district, let’s say, and so that kind of got me into school. I also really got involved with our housing. I was the CD for 06 my senior year. Is that a thing anymore?

I haven’t heard of that, but yeah, there are RSLs, which are like residential student leaders.

Really? Okay, yeah, I think that had a different title back then. There were also like wing and hall leaders. I was never a wing leader, but I led the hall when I was a senior and that really came into play with events like Clash.

All my best memories are from Clash. Most of my photos that I still have are all also from Clash too. I’ve heard there’s been some drama over the last few years with how clash has changed, but I’m hoping it’s only good for you guys.

Yeah. Yes, lots of good memories. Would you do drill and stuff? Or did you do like hall decs?

Oh no, I’m not a dancer, I wasn’t involved in that. But I was very into decorating the hall. That was a big thing. Also all the other random security events and the CDs as a group. There would have been 14 of us, I think, 2 for each hall and we would help determine how Clash was run and how. Like what events were happening, what sequence, and also things like the color selection per se. I think a bit of it was randomized, but sometimes we were like, “Yeah, we’re not doing that.” And so yeah, it was really rigorous as I’m sure it still is.

But it was also very much community-focused. Like we really stuck together as a class, especially class of ‘13, we still really love each other and there’s a large group of us that’ll hang out if anyone’s in Chicago. I know Eva who’s involved with the alumni association. She’s one of my best friends, and I know she and a lot of other Chicago graduates still do random basement hangouts or go have a couple drinks when no one’s in the house. So like, we’re still really strongly bonded even now. I know there’s a lot of different pockets where people are still just hanging out together. I’m not sure if that’s the same in other high schools, like I know my fiance talks to like, four friends from back then.

Were there any popular study spots or classes?

Yeah, the senior u-bench, for sure. That was a big one. My favorite teachers were for sure Dr. Kiely and Dr. Kind, I don’t know if they’re still there.

I don’t think Kiely is, I don’t know who that is, but Dr. Kind’s still here, yeah.

Oh, I love Dr. Kind. If you see her tell her I said hi, though she probably won’t remember me. But yeah, Dr. Kiely was an amazing history teacher. He was probably one of my favorite teachers I’ve ever had. He also taught at the Art Institute, and he taught classes like History of Religion and International Relations. Phenomenal courses, love them. 

Recently I’ve also been getting back into class work from my graphic novels class with Dr. Hancock. That class opened up a whole new world of books for me and I’m rereading some of the books now that I read senior year for that class.

That’s awesome!

Yeah, there were so many good ones. I was super involved in Spanish as well, and that wound up being my undergraduate degree too. And so Senora and Palos, I don’t know if either of them are still there, I think Senora left, not sure about Palos. 

Kaluza and Zuidema are the 2 Spanish teachers now.

Oh ok, yeah no idea, but that’s cool. I was also in Russian back then. I picked it up as a second language in junior year, and that was super cool since that was something I couldn’t have done in my old high school back home. 

Let me think about what else. For study spots, we spent a lot of time in the library stacks. That was a popular quiet hideaway, “Don’t talk to me. I need to finish this paper before tonight, don’t ask” kind of thing. By senior year, they had gotten us bean bags because kids were passing out back there just like hanging out. I spent a lot of time in the KI room as well because no one would really go there. But I think that’s now been completely renovated to your engineering lab where they’ve got the laser cutters. That whole area was like a desolate zone, so that’s where I would go study and I’d make Julie help me with my math homework. The slabs outside in the warm weather were also very popular, both as a party and study spot, depending on the fact.

Do you have a favorite IMSA memory?

Oh, I don’t know. It makes me sad because of the nostalgia. There’s so many good memories, picking one is so hard. It would probably be around senior year homecoming. We did a huge prank, not sure if it’s still talked about or not, but we filled the TV pit with balloons. We also moved the hamster ball, chalked all the sidewalks, and TP’d the trees. And that was just like a core memory, for sure, because our whole class was so invested in it. Everyone was participating. The woman who was running SIR that year was trying to get us to not fill the TV pit with balloons and we were like, “We already asked Fernandez so this is happening I don’t care what you have to say,” but yeah that was an awesome way to start the year.  Everyone just really got involved, which was super fun to get some class bonding before, you know, the beginning of the end.

What has your post-graduation looked like?

Yeah, I’ve kind of taken a weird sort of path to get where I’m at now. First, I went to the University of Colorado in Denver for 4 years. I was in their honors and leadership program and I did a lot of teaching with them and got my major in Spanish language and literature. Then I got minors both in research development and public health.

After that, my goal was to start working in the public health world. I started working at a urology clinic in Denver initially as a receptionist, but then I moved up into an insurance role kind of. Like I would call people’s insurances to make sure things were covered for them, and if they weren’t, I would call people’s insurances to make sure things were covered for them. If not, I would talk with them about it and how we could navigate through that. 

But then the pandemic happened, and that kind of changed my mind about healthcare a little bit, as it did for a lot of people. I came back to California with my fiance, well my boyfriend at the time, and we were sitting on the beach with his mom and she was saying at the time, “Have you thought about teaching?” It’s kind of funny because that was my senior most. I was most likely to come back and be an IMSA teacher. I had fought against that so hard because I was like, “No, I’m not gonna be the stereotype. I’m not gonna be the kid that all these kids thought I was gonna be.” But at the end of the day, when I reflect on my time in college, that was some of the most valuable time in my life, since I felt the most invested in my own education and in others. I’m just finishing that up right now. Last week I had my final certification exams and I finished my thesis so I’m just tying up a couple knots now and I’m hoping to get into an elementary school classroom here in the next year or two depending on who will hire me.

Did you learn anything from being in Drama Club that helped you either through college or as you joined the workforce?

Absolutely, yeah. I mean, honestly, Julie Dowling taught me so much in so many different ways, but some of the things that stick out most to me are just my confidence with speaking, and not really hesitating in what I’m gonna say. Just, you know, expressing your feelings and pushing through the nervousness. I remember she had one activity with us, I don’t remember if it was KI or Drama Club because I was with her all the time, but there was one we had as a larger group where we presented something that we knew about, it didn’t have to be anything intense, but she had us count our ums, pauses, and filler words just so we were cognizant that we were doing that. It helped me a lot with my public speaking in college and through SIR, using that kind of memory to just be like, “Oh, you know, think about what you’re saying a little bit”. You know, it’s not about overthinking, but being more conscious of the direction you’re going instead of letting yourself kind of drift away. That sort of thing really stuck with me and I think about it often, especially when I hear a politician doing a speech, or if I’m listening to a corporation that has a major presenter, CEO, or something and I hear them saying all these filler words instead of actually getting to the point. That sort of thing has stuck with me a lot and I’m still not super good at it, but I think even just having that memory and having the thought process has helped me so much compared to a lot of other students that I watched struggle so deeply with presenting in college and beyond.

The people who I work for, ECO right now, just as, you know, a way to make money. And, we sit through these whole corporation talks probably once a month, once a quarter with the CEO or CFO. And I’m just like, “What are we even doing here? You’re just saying, like every 3 words. I gotta mute this. I can’t handle it, man.” So that’s definitely one of the biggest ones for me, just remembering how to just be confident with yourself. People want to hear what you’re gonna say, so just say it.

Can I ask what your SIR was about?

Yeah, I studied at Loyola with a doctor in the neonatal intensive care unit. I did a project on patent ductus arteriosus, which are little holes that can open in people’s hearts. My mentor had been working on this theory that, using caffeine, was going to start closing the hole in these neonates, and we did a bunch of batch data research.

I don’t remember if it was exactly their oxygen levels, or what the specific mechanism we were doing was, but essentially her data and my, you know, assessment of it showed that if you do give caffeine to these babies in the correct doses it does begin to close that hole in the heart without surgery being needed, and it doesn’t really have any negative effects on the infants. So that was like one of the coolest things I’ve ever done, and one of the reasons I wanted to go into public health to begin with. But I think that also has kind of looped me back into elementary teaching and just wanting to support the youth of our country and our world in any way that I can.

Have you always been really interested in helping younger people?

Yeah, I mean I’ve always loved it ever since my elementary school. I went to a really weird school for my elementary education since they let us do this thing called intercession. We basically did it at my elementary school every quarter, and if you were in eighth grade you had the opportunity to be able to teach one with the observation of a teacher or whoever. And so that was like the beginning of it for me. I was in eighth grade and I actually did one on Hairspray because the movie had just come out, so I did a Hairspray musical themed intercession for these kids.

It was all like a bunch of fourth-graders and fifth graders that I was trying to teach about things like racism and musical theater at the same time. And you know, it was like the kickstarter for all of it and I wanted to follow through with that in high school and even now.

Do you have any advice for current students?

Yeah, oh that’s hard. I don’t know, I feel like at that time I was so just worried about what everyone thought about me. I wanted to be competitive, but I knew all these kids were so much smarter than me and I had this mentality a bit from Excel that I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t as smart as them, and I didn’t have enough strength. But as I’ve gotten older, I realized that I had so many strengths then that other students didn’t, and we were all just a little bit different. The whole competition aspect of it was really difficult for me because I wasn’t as good at math as a lot of my other peers were, and I felt really ashamed of that. And so then when I got into college, I realized that I wasn’t really. Like no one’s looking at that. And in the bubble of IMSA, I know it feels like that a lot of the time and sometimes kids are looking at you like that.

Kids are mean, but at the end of the day, that’s not what matters. That’s not what stuck with me after my time with IMSA. What stuck with me is the people who cared about me, the people I cared about, the things that were fun and important, and those memories are what wound up being important.

So I know it’s hard when you’re, you know, 15-16, you’re not living with your parents and you’re getting all these different influences telling you who you should be and what you should do. But even with all those things and me getting like Cs in MI 2 or whatever, I’m still a functioning member of society, like I’m doing good things, I’m happy, and it’s been 10, 12 years, but I still remember only the good parts of being here. So I guess I would say, “Don’t worry so much about what everyone else is doing, just make yourself happy and do the things that you find interesting and that spark your curiosity. Take chances with them because that’s where you’ll get some of the greatest opportunities.”

Is there anything you want to make sure is included in your interview?

I don’t know, I think just like getting kids into drama club is so important and I don’t how much of the presence it has right now, but I know that it was such a big winner for us when we did Romeo and Juliet and the whole school was watching us, it felt like everyone in the whole school seemed to love it. We were doing these crazy ads and everything. That’s where some of the best memories I have were made. So I just wish that everyone can find their little family. That’s the most important thing.

About the Author

Max Chen
Max Chen is a junior at IMSA who lives in 01 D-wing. He is from Champaign and is very excited to serve as a Staff Writer for The Acronym. Outside of writing, he likes to play guitar, tennis, and videogames.

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